Why carriers keep your data longer

Your wireless carrier knows where you are as you read this on your phone—otherwise, it couldn’t connect your phone in the first place.

But your wireless carrier also has a memory. It knows where you took your phone in the last hour, the last week, the last month, the last year—and maybe even the last five years.

That gives it an enormous warehouse of data on your whereabouts that can help your wireless carrier fix coverage gaps while revealing much more. Depending on the density of cell sites around you at any one point, the location data triangulated from them can not only highlight your home and office but point to the bars you frequented, the houses at which you spent the night, and the offices of therapists you visited.

Activision Blizzard has five franchises lined up for its new Call of Duty esports league

Activision Blizzard said it has lined up five franchises for a new, city-based Call of Duty esports league.

Atlanta, Dallas, New York, Paris and Toronto will all play host to franchise teams that will compete in a professional league based on what is perhaps Activision Blizzard’s most successful title, the company announced after its earnings call earlier today.

Each city is partnering with existing Overwatch League team owners to leverage the existing framework that Activision has labored over for the past few years to lay the groundwork for a global, city-based Call of Duty league, the company said.

The first teams are Atlanta Esports Ventures, the joint venture owned by Cox Enterprises and Province Inc.; the Envy Gaming esports team which has been active in Call of Duty competitive play since 2007 and with Dallas Fuel Overwatch league team; New York’s Sterling.VC, a sports media company backed by Sterling Equities (owners of the New York Mets); c0ntact Gaming, which owns the Overwatch League team Paris Eternal and the Paris-based Call of Duty team; and Toronto’s OverActive Media.

“The upcoming launch of our new Call of Duty esports league reaffirms our leadership role in the development of professional esports. We have already sold Call of Duty teams in Atlanta, Dallas, New York, Paris and Toronto to existing Overwatch League team owners, and we will announce additional owners and markets later this year,” said Bobby Kotick, chief executive of Activision Blizzard. “Our owners value our professional, global city-based model, the success we have had with broadcast partners, sponsors and licensees, and the passion with which our players have responded to our events.”

The announcement came on the heels of an earnings announcement that saw the company report earnings of $1.825 billion for the quarter, beating its outlook of $1.715 billion but down slightly from the year ago period when the company brought in almost $2 billion.

The company credited esports and its  Overwatch League and the newly announced Call of Duty city-based league (including selling its first five teams to cities) for contributing to the better-than-expected numbers.

With a new CEO and fresh funding from Upfront, healthy prepared food delivery service Territory looks to grow

With a new chief executive officer and $4 million in fresh funding from investors including the Los Angeles-based investment firm, Upfront Ventures, Territory Foods is poised for growth.

The company recently hired powerhouse executive Abby Coleman, the former vice president of marketing and strategy at Quidsi and head of e-commerce at Diapers.com as its new chief executive and is now looking to expand its footprint and unique approach to meal delivery beyond its current geographies.

The company uses a proprietary food recommendation engine to determine its subscribers’ personal preferences to deliver them meals that are more tailored to their individual tastes.

Territory also employs a unique business model, leveraging local chefs to prepare meals according to menus designed by the company.

The distributed workforce of gig chefs allows the company greater flexibility in planning, preparing, and distributing its meals, according to Coleman.

A lifelong vegetarian and mother of two vegetarian daughters, the 39-year-old Coleman actually began her business in the food services industry as a caterer before moving on to leadership positions at Kraft Foods and Mondelez International before taking on the vice presidential role at Quidsi.

“My coming on board was really a response to a decision that the board and Patrick [Smith] made that it was time to scale the business,” says Coleman. 

With the new cash the company intends to expand its footprint in locations beyond its hubs in major cities on the East and West coasts (and Texas), including: Baltimore, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and the Washington metropolitan area.

There’s plenty of opportunity for growth considering that the market for healthy eating and personalized food is roughly $702 billion, according to the company. In 2018, one out of every three Americans reported to following some kind of healthy eating protocol with the percentage highest among 18-34 year olds, according to information provided by Territory.

“It’s rare to see businesses like Territory that hit major trends at the right time with the right product,” said Kara Nortman, Partner at Upfront Ventures. “Territory has been able to consistently punch above its weight with a very smart economic model and a product that consumers love, and we couldn’t be more excited to lean into this business with Abby and her team. Abby’s passionate knowledge of food and superb ecommerce skills combine to make her the perfect leader for Territory’s next phase of growth.”

Indeed, the company’s methodical approach to growth has been a strength that has led it to profitability in core markets like Los Angeles and Washington, Coleman says.

Territory wrings efficiency out of its network of chefs, which has a high retention rate and allows the company to act in an asset light way. Chefs are paid to prepare the meals, but provide the ingredients themselves and work as contractors rather than employees. They pocket the difference between the cost of the ingredients they use and the price they’re paid by Territory to prepare the meals.

Coleman says the business model leverages the excess capacity caterers have while offering them the opportunity to tailor their meals to suit local market tastes.

And just because the chefs are given a bit of free rein doesn’t mean that there’s any lack of quality control, Coleman says. “The emphasis is on the quality control that a product is up to our standards,” according to Coleman. 

Meals are $10.95 and are designed around the needs of customers — ranging from paleo, whole 30, keto, and vegetarian options. Now, Coleman is looking to aggressively expand the flexibility and menu options available to customers.

“It’s more like a restaurant and we’re going to have an entirely new menu next week,” Coleman says. “We create over 400 new dishes a year.”

Despite the woeful performance of public companies like Blue Apron, prepared food companies are still attracting investor attention and interest — especially if they’re married with a pitch to health-conscious consumers targeting a specific diet.

Territory Foods has raised $20 million to date, including the new cash from Upfront Ventures and Lewis & Clark, while Trifecta, another purveyor of prepared foods has raised $2.6 million. And the giants are still around as well, the companies like Plated, HelloFresh, Home Chef (owned by Kroger Foods), and Sun Basket, which have raised over $500 million combined.

 

Boeing Has Made 96 Flights to Test Software on Troubled Max Jet, CEO Says

(DALLAS) — Boeing has made 96 flights to test a software update for its troubled 737 Max jet, according to the company’s CEO.

Dennis Muilenburg said Thursday that more test flights are planned in the coming weeks as Boeing attempts to convince regulators that the plane is safe.

The Max was grounded by regulators around the world last month after deadly crashes involving the plane in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

In both cases, faulty information from a sensor caused anti-stall automation to kick in when it wasn’t needed and push the plane’s nose down. Pilots struggled to counter the plane’s actions but were unable to avoid crashing.

Muilenburg, who spoke at a leadership forum in Dallas, said Boeing representatives have met with pilots and airline officials in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Singapore and China to discuss the changes it is making.

Separately, Democratic Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts introduced a bill in Congress Thursday requiring plane makers to provide airlines with all safety equipment now considered optional and to do so without an additional charge.

Markey said safety equipment that had not been installed on the Boeing 737 Max jets in Indonesia and Ethiopia might have saved them from fatal crashes. He says the equipment could have alerted crews to false readings from sensors implicated in those crashes.

Markey says plane makers shouldn’t treat safety features as luxuries that can generate additional fees like premium seats and extra bathrooms.

Boeing says its planes are equipped with “all critical features” necessary for safety. It has said it will provide two features missing in the two crashed planes free of charge.

Audi’s new V2I feature helps drivers hit every green light

Audi has added a new feature to the vehicle-to-infrastructure technology embedded in its newer models that’s designed to help drivers catch every green light.

The tech, called GLOSA, or Green Light Optimized Speed Advisory, is part of the automaker’s built-in traffic light-reading technology. And Audi says it’s the first automaker to include this GLOSA feature in its cars.

It all began in 2016 when Audi launched Traffic Light Information, a system that enables the car to communicate with the infrastructure in certain cities and metropolitan areas across the United States. 

It was rather limited at the time, but in principle, the car would receive information from the sensor on a traffic light (via a 4G LTE hot spot) and be able to tell the driver how long before it turned from red to green. 

GLOSA builds on this by advising drivers what speed they should drive to catch a green light. The system is able to do this by combining traffic signal information and the current position of a vehicle, as well as other important data such as the distance to stop, the area’s speed limit and signal timing plans.

It then displays a speed recommendation intended to help drivers pass traffic lights on green. The end goal is to slash the number of stops at red lights and, in turn, the amount of time stuck in traffic. This helps reduce emissions and boosts fuel savings. For the average American driver, nearly 300 hours a year are spent behind the wheel, according to AAA.

Today, there are more than 4,700 intersections that support the “time to green” feature as well as this GLOSA function in 13 metro areas that include Dallas, Denver, Gainesville, Houston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York City, Orlando, Phoenix, Portland, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia.

The feature is still somewhat limited, despite the expansion to more cities. Traffic Light Information is an Audi connect PRIME feature (a paid subscription) that is only available on select 2017, 2018 and newer models.

Audi says it intends to roll out more V2I-capable features in the future and could include integration with the vehicle’s start/stop function — which would reduce emissions — optimized navigation routing and other predictive services.

Vinli raises $13.5m Series B to expand its vehicle data intelligence platform

Connected car service provider Vinli today announced it closed a $13.5 million Series B financing round. The company says this infusion of capital allows it broaden its mobility services and integrations as it attempts to connect cars around the world.

The funding came from new and existing investors and brings the total amount the company raised to over $20 million.

Based in Dallas, TX, Vinli launched in 2014 in TechCrunch Startup Battlefield as a direct consumer company that allowed owners to add cloud services to automobiles. It was a clever concept, and when it launched four years ago, it was ahead of the curve. Now, in 2019, the focus of the business is different as the company seeks to provide deep data intelligence to auto makers and transportation providers.

“The investment validates our place in the industry. In the last five years, we have seen the industry unfold and evolve into an industry driven by digital services,” said Mark Haidar, CEO of Vinli, in a press release released to TechCrunch. “Companies today need viable data solutions — not only to support the growing number of data sources but to deliver on the multiple service offerings to their end customers. We’re focused on making it easier for large fleets and automakers to access smarter data intelligence. It’s in helping those partners scale and be successful is what we look forward to most at Vinli.”

Now, with the latest round of investment, Vinli is looking to integrate its platform with electric vehicles and turned to an energy company, E.ON, to examine the market. Vinli says it will expand its offerings for electric mobility and fleets of electric vehicles.

Vinli’s approaching a largely untapped market. As vehicles become more connected, there are countless data points that can be examined and expanded. With Vinli’s deep background in vehicle intelligence, it’s well suited to continue to grow and provide rich data sets of vehicle information.

Whim, the all-in-one mobility app for ridesharing, public transit and rentals is coming to the US

MaaS Global, the company behind the all-in-one mobility app Whim, which offers a subscription service for public transportation, ridesharing, bike rentals, scooter rentals, taxis or car rentals, will be making its U.S. debut later this year.

The company will choose its American launch city from Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas and Miami, according to Sampo Hietanen, the company’s chief executive.

The Whim app is currently available in Antwerp, Birmingham, U.K., Helsinki and Vienna, according to Hietanen, and offers a range of subscription options. The top of the line version is a €500 per month all-inclusive package giving users unlimited access to ride hailing, bike and car rentals and public transportation.

“Cars take 70 percent of the market and it’s used 4 percent of the time so you’re paying for the optional capacity,” says Hietanen. Using Whim, which, at the high end costs about as much as a car in Europe, users can get all of the optionality without paying for the unused capacity. It should ideally reduce transportation costs and cut down on emissions, if Hietanen’s claims are accurate. 

The Helsinki-based company uses APIs to connect with the back end of a number of service providers. For car rentals, it’s working with businesses like Hertz, Enterprise and EuropeCar; for ridesharing, the company has linked with Gett and local European taxi companies, according to Hietanen.

Users have already booked 3 million trips through the company’s app since its launch and the company is continuing to expand not just in North America, but in Asia as well. There are plans in the works for the company to launch operations in Singapore.

Giving consumers more options for transit through a single gateway could reduce demand for vehicles, but some analysts argue that it won’t do much to alleviate congestion on roads. Consumers, they argue, will choose the convenience of rideshare over mass transit and could actually increase.

As Richard Rowson, a mobility consultant from the U.K., noted in this post:

MaaS doesn’t implicitly mean a net decrease nor increase in the number of road vehicle miles. The changes are complex, but in balance look likely to result in an increase.

Factors such as migration from private car to public transport should cause a reduction, but migration from train and bus, to private hire and smaller demand responsive buses will cause an increase. Other factors such as ‘positioning’ movements as ‘on demand’ vehicles are positioned to exploit demand also create journeys.

Smart journey planning and navigation systems should make better use of available road capacity, such as identifying alternative routes – but at the expense of migrating through traffic to local access roads.

There is the potential that having a single point of access to mobility may actually help cities push riders to favor public transportation by offering a window into the amount of time using each service would take and showing users the fastest route.

Last August the company said it had raised a €9 million round from undisclosed investors. It had previously received capital from Toyota Financial Services and its insurance partner Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance.

The next big restaurant chain may not own any kitchens

If investors at some of the biggest technology companies are right, the next big restaurant chain could have no kitchens of its own.

These venture capitalists think the same forces that have transformed transportation, media, retail and logistics will also work their way through prepared food businesses.

Investors are pouring millions into the creation of a network of shared kitchens, storage facilities, and pickup counters that established chains and new food entrepreneurs can access to cut down on overhead and quickly spin up new concepts in fast food and casual dining.

Powering all of this is a food delivery market that could grow from $35 billion to a $365 billion industry by 2030, according to a report from UBS’s research group, the “Evidence Lab”.

“We’ve had conversations with the biggest and fastest growing restaurant brands in the country and even some of the casual brands,” said Jim Collins, a serial entrepreneur, restauranteur, and the chief executive of the food-service startup, Kitchen United. “In every board room for every major restaurant brand in the country… the number one conversation surrounds the topic of how are we going to address [off-premise diners].”

Collins’ company just raised $10 million in a funding round led by GV, the investment arm of Google parent company, Alphabet. But Alphabet’s investment team is far from the only group investing in the restaurant infrastructure as a service business.

Perhaps the best capitalized company focusing on distributed kitchens is CloudKitchens, one of two subsidiaries owned by the holding company City Storage Solutions.

Cloud Kitchens and its sister company Cloud Retail are the two arms of the new venture from Uber co-founder and former chief executive, Travis Kalanick, which was formed with a $150 million investment.

As we reported at the time, Travis announced that he would be starting a new fund with the riches he made from Uber shares sold in its most recent major secondary round. Kalanick said his 10100, or “ten one hundred”, fund would be geared toward “large-scale job creation,” with investments in real estate, e-commerce, and “emerging innovation in India and China.”

If anyone is aware of the massive market potential for leveraging on-demand services, it’s Kalanick. Especially since he was one of the architects of the infrastructure that has made it possible.

Other deep pocketed companies have also stepped into the fray. Late last year Acre Venture Partners, the investment arm formed by The Campbell Soup Co., participated in a $13 million investment for Pilotworks, another distributed kitchen operator based in Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, Kitchen United has been busy putting together a deep bench of executive talent culled from some of the largest and most successful American fast food restaurant chains.

Former Taco Bell Chief Development Officer, Meredith Sandland, joined the company earlier this year as its chief operating officer, while former McDonald’s executive Atul Sood, who oversaw the burger giant’s relationship with online delivery services, has come aboard as Kitchen United’s Chief Business Officer.

The millions of dollars spicing up this new business model investors are serving up could be considered the second iteration of a food startup wave.

An earlier generation of prepared food startups crashed and burned while trying to spin up just this type of vision with investments in their own infrastructure. New York celebrity chef David Chang, the owner and creator of the city’s famous Momofuku restaurants (and Milk Bar, and Ma Peche), was an investor in Maple, a new delivery-only food startup that raised $25 million before it was shut down and its technology was absorbed into the European, delivery service, Deliveroo.

Ando, which Chang founded, was another attempt at creating a business with a single storefront for takeout and a massive reliance on delivery services to do the heavy lifting of entering new neighborhoods and markets. That company wound up getting acquired by UberEats after raising $7 million in venture funding.

Those losses are slight compared to the woes of investors in companies like Munchery, ($125.4 million) Sprig, ($56.7 million) and SpoonRocket ($13 million). Sprig and Spoonrocket are now defunct, and Munchery had to pull back from markets in Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle as it fights for survival. The company also reportedly was looking at recapitalizing earlier in the year at a greatly reduced valuation.

What gives companies like Kitchen United, Pilotworks and Cloud Kitchens hope is that they’re not required to actually create the next big successful concept in fast food or casual dining. They just have to enable it.

Kitchen United just opened a 12,000 square foot facility in Pasadena for just that purpose — and has plans to open more locations in West Los Angeles; Jersey City, N.J.; Atlanta; Columbus, Ohio; Phoenix; Seattle and Denver. Its competitor, Pilotworks, already has operations in Brooklyn, Chicago, Dallas, and Providence, R.I.

While the two companies have similar visions, they’re currently pursuing different initial customers. Pilotworks has pitched itself as a recipe for success for new food entrepreneurs. Kitchen United, by comparison is giving successful local, regional, and national brands a way to expand their footprint without investing in real estate.

“One of the directions that the company was thinking of going was toward the restaurant industry and the second was in the food service entrepreneurial sector,” said Collins. “Would it be a company that served restaurants with their expansions? Now, we’re in deep discussions with all kinds of restaurants.”

Smaller national fast food chains like Chick-Fil-A or Shake Shack, or fast casual chains like Dennys and Shoney’s could be customers, said Collins. So could local companies that are trying to expand their regional footprint. Los Angeles’ famous Canter’s Deli is a Kitchen United customer (and an early adopter of a number of new restaurant innovations) and so is The Lost Cuban Kitchen, an Iowa-based Cuban restaurant that’s expanding to Los Angeles.

Kitchen United is looking to create kitchen centers that can house between 10-20 restaurants in converted warehouses, big box retail and light industrial locations.

Using demographic data and “demand mapping” for specific cuisines, Kitchen United said that it can provide optimal locations and site the right restaurant to meet consumer demand. The company is also pitching labor management, menu management and delivery tools to help streamline the process of getting a new location up and running.

“In all of the facilities, all of the restaurants have their own four-walled space,” says Collins. “There’s shared infrastructure outside of that.”

Some of that infrastructure is taking food deliveries and an ability to serve as a central hub for local supplier, according to Collins. “One of the things that we’re going to be launching relatively soon here in Pasadena, is actually in-service days where local supplier and purveyors can come in and meet with seven restaurants at once.”

It’s also possible that restaurants in the Kitchen United spaces could take advantage of restaurant technologies being developed by one of the startup’s sister companies through Cali Group, a holding company for a number of different e-sports, retail, and food technology startups.

The Pasadena-based kitchen company was founded by Harry Tsao, an investor in food technology (and a part owner of the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Football Club) through his fund Avista Investments; and John Miller, a serial entrepreneur who founded the Cali Group.

In fact, Kitchen United operates as a Cali Group portfolio company alongside Miso Robotics, the developer of the burger flipping robot, Flippy; Caliburger, an In-n-Out clone first developed by Miller in Shanghai and brought back to the U.S.; and FunWall, a display technology for online gaming in retail settings.

“Kitchen United’s data-driven approach to flexible kitchen spaces unlocks critical value for national, regional, and local restaurant chains looking to expand into new markets,” said Adam Ghobarah, general partner at GV, and a new director on the Kitchen United board. “The founding team’s experience in scaling — in addition to diverse exposure to national chains, regional brands, regional franchises, and small upstart eateries — puts Kitchen United in a strong position to accelerate food innovation.”

GV’s Ghobarah actually sees the investment of a piece with other bets that Alphabet’s venture capital arm has made around the food industry.

The firm is a backer of the fully automated hamburger preparation company, Creator, which has raised roughly $28 million to develop its hamburger making robot (if Securities and Exchange Commission filings can be believed). And it has backed the containerized farming startup, Bowery Farming, with a $20 million investment.

Ghobarah sees an entirely new food distribution ecosystem built up around facilities where Bowery’s farms are colocated with Kitchen United’s restaurants to reduce logistical hurdles and create new hubs.

“As urban farming like Bowery scales up… that becomes more and more realistic,” Ghobarah said. “The other thing that really stands out when you have flexible locations … all of the thousands of people who want to own a restaurant now have access. It’s not really all regional chains and national chains… With a satellite location like this… [a restaurant]… can break even at one third of the order volume.”